Should the Colts be considered as serious title contenders?

Colts celebrate after TD
Are the Colts dark horses to win it all? Photo from Stampede Blue.

After a disappointing Week One loss, the Indianapolis Colts have strung together three dominant wins; 28-11 against the Vikings, a 36-7 trouncing of the Jets and a convincing 19-11 win away to Chicago.

While the Colts haven’t been tested against the upper echelons of the NFL, they have proven, outside of that Week One anomaly, that they are a competent organisation. But in a league with the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens do the Colts have enough to win it all?

Quarterback

Before Philip Rivers‘ first snaps with the Colts, there was a real ere surrounding the organisation that this could be a bit of a ‘Brett Farve on the Jets’ type of situation. However, Rivers has demonstrated that he’s still got some juice left in the tank.

Statistically, Rivers is excelling. The Colts quarterback is fourth in completion percentage (72.7), tied eleventh in yards per attempt (8.1) and eighth in on target percentage (74.4). Colts general manager, Chris Ballard, may have brought Rivers in to be more a dynamic gunslinger taking shots downfield, however, Rivers’ stats point to his game being more refined.

Via Sports Info Solutions, Rivers’ average throw depth is only 7.0 yards, ranking him 21st out of quarterbacks with min. 50 throwing attempts, just between Justin Herbert and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now, this necessarily isn’t a bad thing. It just emphasises Rivers’ shift in play from reckless gunslinger to refined veteran quarterback.

Furthermore, through four weeks, Rivers has only been sacked 3 times – tied for dead-last out of quarterbacks who have started all four games this season. The prowess of the Colts offensive line – one of the finest units in football – has a lot to do with Rivers’ shift in play. No longer is the veteran forced to scramble for his life every play, throwing up last-ditch throws before being hit. If the Colts can keep Rivers up-right, then they can take full advantage of the cerebral part of his game, since he won’t be rattled and panicking every snap.

The disastrous final drive against the Raiders in Week Eight of 2019 was the result of Rivers being hit over and over again, unable to gather himself and stay calm. This should not be a problem this year in Indy.

To sum up, if the Colts can keep Rivers up-right, which I am sure they can, then Colts fans can expect the best version of the 38-year-old. And the veteran might just have enough to take this team to the promised land.


Defence

Via Football Outsiders, the Colts rank first in DVOA. Behind the best defence in the NFL lies defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus. Eberflus runs a basic type of defence, akin to that of San Francisco’s. Yet, there is nothing wrong with that. Each player knows their assigned roles and can execute accordingly.

Speaking to ESPN, Colts head coach Frank Reich said “I think we have an excellent defence… All that matters is we score one more point than the other team. I’d like them to keep this up.” And that’s all it is. When you have the talent, your scheme just needs to be tactically sound and the Colts do have the talent.

The Colts made a big statement in the off-season by trading the 13th overall pick in the 2020 Draft for DeForest Buckner – the 6 feet 7 inches tall nose tackle previously affiliated with the San Francisco 49ers. A few eyebrows were raised at the decision, especially considering Buckner was due a big payday combined with the fact that nose tackle is not among the list of valuable position groups such as quarterback, pass rusher and tackle.

However, the Colts gave Buckner that new contract, 4 years for $84 million, and the former 49er is playing like the best nose tackle in the NFL. Per The Indianapolis Star, Ballard spoke about Buckner on the ‘Colts Roundtable Live’ show. “Sometimes it doesn’t catch on right at first, but eventually everybody follows suit,” Ballard went on to say “and DeForest has been exactly — and even more — than I expected… He is a really true pro; we feel very fortunate to have him.”

Buckner has been at the centre of this terrific 2020 Colts defence. As with everything in the NFL – it starts up front for the Colts defence and Buckner is the key to that. Via Sports Info Solutions, through the first four weeks of the season, Buckner has recorded 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 pressures, 10 hurries and 11 quarterback hits. Buckner has proven to be the perfect partner to Darius Leonard – the other leader of this vaunted Colts defence.

Leonard has amassed 28 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. In the passing game, Leonard has given up just 18 yards receiving when targeted while keeping his completion percentage when targeted low at 33.3%. Firmly in his third year in the league, Leonard has established himself as one of the best linebackers in the NFL and the undoubted leader of this Colts defence.

Leonard and Buckner makeup two invaluable pieces of the Colts front 7 and help establish the tenacity of this defence. Similar to how Buckner and 49ers linebacker Fred Warner led the 49ers defence all the way to the Super Bowl last year, Buckner and Leonard can be cornerstones of this Colts defence and take them far.

Can the Colts win it all?

So, can the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl? At this point, I honestly don’t see why not. However, until Phil Rivers and co. test their metal against the cream of the crop, you should reserve the right to be overly optimistic about the Colts’ chances come January. However, you can win and be successful in the NFL by playing sound football. As we saw in Week One against the Colts, any given Sunday.

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About Matthew Bowen 116 Articles
Matthew is an MA history student at Swansea University. He is an avid supporter of the San Francisco 49ers and Liverpool FC. Twitter: @MatthewJBowen7

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